No sale for med­i­cal mar­i­juana busi­ness in St. John’s: RNC

Owner says op­por­tu­nity ex­ists for pro­gres­sive ap­proach, tax­a­tion

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - PROVINCIAL - BY ASH­LEY FITZPATRICK afitz­patrick@thetele­gram.com

The owner of Health Cannabis on Wa­ter Street in St. John’s says he has been put on no­tice by the Royal New­found­land Con­stab­u­lary: sell mar­i­juana and risk crim­i­nal charges.

The warn­ing comes de­spite the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s prom­ise of new leg­is­la­tion to come in spring 2017 — ex­pected to le­gal­ize the busi­ness of mar­i­juana and pos­ses­sion for more than just med­i­cal use.

“They called my land­lord a cou­ple of days ago,” said David Ferkul, who spoke with The Tele­gram Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. “Then he gave us a num­ber. I phoned them back. They waited a cou­ple of days and I fi­nally got the call to­day.”

He said the cau­tion was also de­liv­ered in writ­ing.

A busi­ness for pa­tients

Ferkul said Health Cannabis is a “mem­bers only” spot, with mem­ber­ship be­ing lim­ited to med­i­cal mar­i­juana li­cence hold­ers. The lo­ca­tion is only open on week­ends and po­ten­tially some other, un­usual hours.

“The new fed­eral law states that you have to re­ceive your (pre­scrip­tion) mar­i­juana through mail or­der from one of the 36 li­cenced pro­duc­ers,” he said, re­fer­ring to a list of pro­duc­ers li­cenced by Health Canada (the list is avail­able on the reg­u­la­tor’s web­site).

“Cur­rently they can­not pro­duce enough sup­ply for the de­mand and that’s where the dis­pen­saries have come in, to sort of fill that void.”

He did not re­fer to the Health Cannabis op­er­a­tion in St. John’s as a dis­pen­sary, but of­fered this as a note on the le­gal land­scape.

Mak­ing no ad­mis­sion to mar­i­juana sales, he said his shop is open at those times when med­i­cal mar­i­juana de­liv­er­ies might

not be reach­ing lo­cal pa­tients through the mail.

He is a grower as li­cenced un­der the Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Ac­cess Reg­u­la­tions (MMAR), he said. The law has changed since the re­peal of the MMAR in March 2014, but any­one who was li­censed un­der the MMAR was given the op­por­tu­nity to ap­ply to con­tinue grow­ing on an in­terim ba­sis, he said, un­der a spe­cial au­tho­riza­tion.

Il­le­gal or not?

Ferkul said he un­der­stands the mes­sage is­sued this week by po­lice in St. John’s.

“They’re say­ing that it’s il­le­gal to dis­pense mar­i­juana through a re­tail unit. Which makes sense. It is. On black and white pa­per,” he said.

“But ac­cord­ing to the (Fe­bru­ary 2016) rul­ing by the Supreme Court of Canada, they state pa­tients need rea­son­able ac­cess to their medicine and,

that be­ing said, they’ve grand­fa­thered in a law to al­low ev­ery MMAR grower — about 28,000 grow­ers in Canada — to con­tinue to pro­duce their prod­uct.

“The only way else to in­ter­pret that is to say, those pa­tients, any ex­cess could be given to other pa­tients with the fed­eral pre­scrip­tion and that’s where we’d step in.”

He has been track­ing cases re­lated to med­i­cal mar­i­juana sales be­ing brought to the courts.

“Not ev­ery case is go­ing to be thrown out the door, but a lot of them are be­ing thrown out the door just be­cause it’s ‘A,’ so close to le­gal­iza­tion, which is what the court, the judges, are call­ing it; or ‘B,’ it’s for med­i­cal pur­poses,” he said.

Health Cannabis in On­tario

Ferkul has two other Health Cannabis lo­ca­tions in On­tario — one in Eto­bi­coke and one in New­mar­ket. He said the Health Cannabis in Eto­bi­coke was “caught up” in a raid by po­lice, af­ter sev­eral raids on a neigh­bour­ing busi­ness. He said he has a re­lated court date on Dec. 15 in On­tario.

Mar­i­juana is no­tably be­ing han­dled dif­fer­ently across the coun­try at the mo­ment, with the “more lib­eral” City of Van­cou­ver ac­tive in per­mit­ting mar­i­juana busi­nesses. Po­lice there have deemed li­cenced mar­i­juana en­ter­prises to be a low pri­or­ity.

The story is dif­fer­ent fur­ther East.

“The po­lice are just stick­ing to what they’re told, what it says cur­rently in leg­is­la­tion and that’s it. So they’ll keep raid­ing us, but when it gets to court, nine out of 10 times — for our sake I would say 100 per cent of the time — it’s go­ing to be just thrown out, be­cause we’re op­er­at­ing for the pa­tients,” Ferkul said.

He re­ferred to them as civil dis­obe­di­ence cases, call­ing po­lice and court ac­tiv­ity that is tar­get­ing mar­i­juana specif­i­cally a waste of re­sources.

The Tele­gram reached out to the RNC, but shortly af­ter, at about 4 p.m., re­ceived an email stat­ing a re­sponse would not be pos­si­ble on the day. Any fur­ther re­sponse will be pro­vided at thetele­gram.com and in fu­ture print and dig­i­tal edi­tions.

JOE GIB­BONS/THE TELE­GRAM

An uniden­ti­fied em­ployee of Health Cannabis on Wa­ter Street works around the lo­ca­tion on Wa­ter Street in St. John’s. The med­i­cal mar­i­juana mem­ber­ship lo­ca­tion was issed a warn­ing by the RNC that if they sell the prod­uct it will risk be­ing charged for...

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